The Federal Government has announced a N36m cash prize for any Nigerian that finds cure for coronavirus and Lassa fever.
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is currently ravaging China, with about a thousand deaths so far recorded, while many others are infected.
Lassa fever is a seasonal disease that usually breaks out in parts of Nigeria during the dry season and most infections usually result in death.
Speaking on Thursday at an event held to mark the retirement from service of A. O. Oyesefo, a former director of the Department of Chemical Technology, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said, “I challenge all Nigerian scientists to go out and find cures for coronavirus and Lassa fever.
“Any scientist that is able to do this will be given N36m.”
“There is nothing that we want to do that we can’t do. Nigeria will be making contributions to the world.”
He added, “We want our scientists to know that we place value on them. We want them to know that they are important. If you don’t do things like this, the scientists will think we don’t value them.
“Research takes a lot of time and energy, and we will be very happy to fulfil our pledge.
“This prize is open to the universities; it is also open to private laboratories and research institutes.”
The announcement elicited cheers from participants at the event.
Imo moves to prevent outbreak
The Imo State House of Assembly on Thursday mandated the state Ministry of Health to begin public enlightenment to prevent Lassa fever and coronavirus.
Uju Onwudiwe, who sponsored the motion, said, “Be it resolved that this honourable House that the state Ministry of Health shall quickly energise its departments or related agencies to commence immediate public enlightenment on the nature and preventive steps for Lassa fever coronavirus outbreak and threat levels, which include the use of media, visits to schools, churches and other gathering of Imo people for effective enlightenment.”
The Speaker, Collins Chiji, said the Legislature would support actions that would prevent the outbreak of Lassa fever and coronavirus.
Delta threatens to shutdown errant hospitals
The Delta State Government has warned medical health workers in both public and private health facilities, who had come in contact with Lassa patients in the state to submit themselves for quarantine.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye, gave the warning on Thursday during a meeting of the Emergency Operations Committee on Lassa fever at the Emergency Operations Centre in Asaba.
Ononye said, “Any medical facility that has treated a confirmed Lassa fever case will be shut down for 48 hours and the premises decontaminated before such a facility is allowed to continue to render health-care services to patients.
“The situation also where action(s) of a health worker who is not cooperating with the Emergency Operations Committee on Lassa fever to carry out contact tracing is impeding the efforts of the committee when not forthcoming with the names of those who had earlier had contact with a confirmed Lassa fever case treated there.”
Giving the update of Lassa fever in the state, the Incident Manager, Emergency Operations Committee on Lassa fever, Dr. Ann Ojimba, said that ‘as at 6pm on the 11th of February, 2020, the number of positive cases has risen to 14 while the number of deaths still remains at one’.
BY Ihuoma Chiedozie, Chidiebube Okeoma, and Matthew Ochei